Category Archives: Fishing

Revenge Of The Fishermen, We Thought

During lunch hour one day in June of 1987, Dana Sawyer, R. E. “Bubba” Broussard, and I, went “shopping” at Sporting Goods, Inc., which in 1987, was the best hunting and fishing store in the area. During this specific trip, I bought a new fishing rod for $19.95

The reader has met Dana before in “The Sunken Shrimp Boat”. Bubba was a computer contractor and was the first customer I had met with when I returned to Houston in 1979. Layla was the second. On my first meeting with him, I happened to have a picture of the twelve-pound bass I caught in March of that year, which I promptly showed him. He responded by pulling out a picture of a six hundred pound Blue Marlin he had just caught. Our friendship was sealed and lasts till this day.

The rod in question was inexpensive. So inexpensive that it didn’t even have a name. But, its shaft extended all the way through to the end of the handle, it had a strong reel seat and trigger grip made of chromed steel, had a good reverse bend to it, had stainless steel eyes and it felt good to hold. It was six and a half foot long, with a medium to heavy action and I knew it would be just the right fit for my Ambassadeur 6500C, wide spool, reel, loaded with twenty-pound line. History would show that I had made a good buy.

I got to try the new rod out the next week, when Layla and I and Bubba and his wife went to Grand Isle, Louisiana, attempting to catch a Stripped Marlin. We caught everything but a Marlin. A hundred miles, yes a hundred miles out in a twenty-three foot, Formula with two, 455 cubic inch, engines and MercCruiser out-drives. A fifty-five MPH boat. We did have company, Jay Prudhome and his wife in Jay’s new twenty-seven foot Proline, with two, two hundred horsepower sea drives. The seas were calm with no wind. We went fast!

After a less than three hour run, one hundred miles out, we pulled up to acres of floating Sargassum sea weed and with my first cast with my new rod, I had a strike from a Chicken Dolphin (small Dolphin weighing less than five pounds) and the fun started. We boated over one hundred that morning. The new rod was fine. I filleted all of those fish before supper that night. During our fishing we lost many fish to sharks! They were a nuisance.

Around noon, I had a big hit and immediately knew it wasn’t a small dolphin. The fish was a great match for my new rod making a long run, it was too far offshore for a Kingfish, maybe a Wahoo, maybe a “bull” Dolphin, but no jumps, getting it alongside the boat we saw it was a eight to ten pound Albacore Tuna being followed by a large, six foot, Bull Shark. Bubba grabbed for his .357 Magnum as the shark clipped off the Tuna’s body right behind the head. The shark happily lolled on the surface long enough for Bubba to shoot it right in the middle of its head and, the last we saw of it, it was sinking. Revenge!

We slept in the next morning, and around 10:00 AM we headed out to some rigs to try and catch some really big Red Fish, thirty pounds and up. We randomly picked a rig, tied up to it, baited up and my new rod was bent double by a savage strike and a long, head shaking run “a big, big” Red! Fifteen minutes later we netted a thirty-five pound Red. He worked me, and my new rod out, but back into the water for him.

Not ten minutes later another savage strike, these fish mean business, and, after what seems like two hours, we boat and release a forty pound Red. My new rod did just fine. Mid morning in the middle of July, no breeze and the fish have really worked me and my new rod out, and, splash, cold, cold, splash, my lovely wife and my best friend have unceremoniously dumped an Igloo water cooler full of ice and cold, cold, water on my head to cool me off.

Layla now laughs about this, saying, “This is the only time I ever saw you loose your temper.” Which I did. Being a lady, Layla doesn’t approve of swearing, anyway I copied a page out of my Dad’s cussing book and the “Blue Streakers” started, and me trying to choke them both at once, and both of them laughing so hard, my temper cooled. They have never tried that again. Meeting Jay and his wife, we headed back out, one hundred miles, to our weed patch.

Fishing around our weed patch, we catch more chicken Dolphin and loose some fish to the sharks. We have a nice Dolphin on and up come a big Bull Shark and eats the Dolphin, lolls on the surface and we see the hole in its head where Bubba shot him yesterday. Incredible, the same shark and not dead! I guess he missed any vitals, if any happened to be up there.

A More Closer Encounter

The summer of 1957 found the fishing still good for small to medium trout around Galveston Island’s East Beach Flats and it also found me boatless, still in college and awaiting a six week stint at ROTC Camp at Ft. Hood. We had been hearing stories about the great fishing behind Earl Galceran’s camp and the old Coast Guard Station at the far west end of Galveston Island. How do we get to it?

Earl’s camp was really several thousand acres leased for Dove, Quail and Duck hunting, plus it had access to some of the best Trout water in the state. No bait used here, only Dixie Jet silver spoons with a yellow buck tail attached. Like the Rockport and Port O’Conner area today, grass grew in abundance and the pot-holes in the grass reminded me of holes in the moss in fresh water lakes. How do we get to it?

One of my ROTC buddies, a newly commissioned Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, Ralph Foster, an avid, avid fisherman, had the idea that since we couldn’t sneak into the area, why didn’t he and I go ask Earl Galceran, already a fishing legend, if we could fish behind his place. We could sight our lack of funds, honesty and Ralph’s newly commissioned status as reasons we could be trusted not to do any damage to his property or equipment. Or, we could just go down there and act like members and wave and smile and just wade out and start fishing. We choose the latter approach, correctly thinking, “Always beg for forgiveness and never ask for permission.” We would plead ignorance of the private property and say we were just following the road to West Galveston Bay.

Arriving at the open gate to Earl Galceran’s we drove to a parking area, parked, grabbed our rods, and stringers and headed for the bay. Out came Earl Galceran, we smiled and waved, he smiled and waved and went back into his trailer. Whew! We must have looked like members.

Reaching the edge of the bay, a light Southeast wind blowing at our backs, as we looked out over Trout paradise, a slight ripple on green, clear water with grass growing and swirling right up to the surface. No hesitation now, in I go and find a hard sand/shell bottom and I can’t believe the grass. On my first cast, the spoon lands silently past a three foot hole in the moss and I begin a rapid retrieve and whamo, a three pound Trout nails the spoon and the fight is on! When a big trout hits, you know it, a jarring, pounding, rod bending hit, not the sideways, slow hit of a big Red picking up a shrimp. Landing the Trout bare handed, getting a firm grip behind its gills, I slid him on the stringer and looked over at Ralph who was in the middle of a fight with a nice fish also.

“This is some place,” I exclaimed, sailing another cast past a likely looking hole in the grass, and getting another whamo! The hook pulled out, no fish. What I didn’t know then, but have since learned, the Trout lurk in the grass beside the holes and ambush baitfish as they swim through the open area. Another cast, another jarring hit, and this one’s hooked solid and I’m soon stringing another three pounder. Several casts catch grass and before you know it, whamo, another fine fish soon to be on my stringer.
Thirty minutes of fishing, wonderful conditions, bait in the water, trout all around and three solid three pounders on the stringer. What a day this will be!

Wait a minute, my stringer is caught on something. That something hits my leg. That something is a shark! “Shark,” I yell, stepping back and looking down at my stringer, which is tied, not looped, onto a belt loop of my jeans. Another lesson learned, “Never tie, always loop.” Two bites and the shark, a four foot plus Black Tip, clips off the last two Trout on my stringer, swirls around me, brushing my leg again, and comes up to the surface and grabs the last Trout, all of this right by my right hand which is futilely trying to pull the fish away from the shark.

I hear Ralph laughing. I don’t think this is funny at all. I’m left with three trout heads on my stringer, heart racing and he’s laughing. I guess Earl Galceran kept these sharks around as pets to feed on his “guest’s” fish. I quickly got out of the water and sat on the bank for thirty or forty minutes cooling off and by that time Ralph, still laughing, came out of the water with five nice trout on his stringer. He said “You ready to call it a day.” I didn’t reply, just turned around and started back to the car.

I went back to this place by boat in 1970. A big chemical plant had been built in the mid 60’s, on one of the feeder bayous that feeds into Lower West Galveston Bay above Earl’s old place and the grass went away. Trout fishing changed in Lower West Bay to anchoring on reefs, fishing under the birds or drifting. Earl Galceran moved to a house boat set up in the Chandleur Islands off of the Louisiana/Mississippi coasts. From what I have heard, he took his sharks with him.

My buddy, Ralph Foster, went on active duty at Ft. Hood as a Platoon Leader in a basic training company. One of his recruits was Elvis Pressley.

Close Encounter

What do you do when a five foot Black Tip Shark hits your Speckled Trout outfit, runs fifteen yards towards you (I thought it was a big Red Fish.), jumps out of the water ten feet in front of you and then heads for Mexico, stripping off all your line?

In the summer of 1954 trout fishing had been very good along the broad sand flats from Galveston’s East Beach Lagoon around to the base of the South Jetties, a curving distance of approximately two miles protected from any wind except north or northeast.

This area was at the far eastern tip of Galveston Island and the western side of Bolivar Channel, which cuts between the island and the Bolivar Peninsula. This is also the mouth of the Galveston and Houston ship channels. It was good fishing and just plain fun to go down there and watch the ships and the girls. We always tried to plan our trips when the wind was light and the tide was coming in.

The week before today’s event my Cousin and fishing buddy, George Pyland, and I had made a “killing” on school trout on the north side of the flats. The fish were everywhere, plugs or live shrimp, even a bare hook. We spread the news among our fishing group and everyone awaited a break in the weather.

I get a early morning call from one of my partners in crime, Bill Brown, saying “Things look good for the flats this afternoon”. My reply was “I can’t. I have a date”. This was totally unacceptable to Bill. His girl friend didn’t like to go fishing and he was free today and tonight. My girl friend was game for anything. She didn’t fish but liked to wade out and watch us fish. After saying, “He would buy the gas”, all of $.18 per gallon, I called my girl and told her of the change in plans and she reluctantly agreed to go with us.

The tide was running in and the wind was light as we bought shrimp at Bobby Wilson’s East Beach Bait Camp and headed for the flats. Wading out about seventy-five yards to waist deep water, the fish were there and we started catching some nice Specs, up to two pounds. Bill, to my right, and I were about 30 feet apart and girl friend was behind me, my stringer floating off to my left with the breeze and incoming tide.

My cork goes under and as I set the hook I remark, “Hey, this is a real nice fish probably a Red”. I struggle to keep the line tight as the fish bores toward me, my companions watching intently. Ten feet in front of me a beautiful five foot long Black Tip Shark clears the water, mouth open, the teeth getting my attention, hits the water splashing some on me, and heads off to my right towards where I thought Bill was located. My valiant fishing partner and girl friend had already halved the distance to shore leaving alone me to battle the denizen.

Not much of a battle, fifteen pound braided line on a Shakespeare Direct Drive reel and a fiber glass popping rod, all being no match for an eighty pound shark. The shark headed to my right and I headed straight for the shore where my stalwart friends were waiting for me. At least the shark didn’t get the fish on our stringers!

This area, the East Beach Flats including Bobby Wilson’s Bait Camp no longer exists. Natural erosion assisted by a small hurricane that came up the channel in the mid 70’s, completely changed the landscape, eliminating one good fishing spot.

Girl friend never went wade fishing with me again.

The Sunken Shrimp Boat

During the spring of 1981, by accident, Dana Sawyer and I “found” a boat, probably a shrimper, that was sunk right off of the Galveston Ship Channel in fifteen feet of water, two hundred yards north of the old concrete ship. For some reason, whenever we caught the tide coming in and the wind and currents not too strong, we consistently caught fish, Speckled Trout and Red Fish, at this spot.

We had been drifting the flats north of the old Quarantine Station, on the west side of the ship Channel, with the depth recorder on, and noticed we had drifted out too far toward the Ship Channel and into deep water, when a “hump” appeared on our chart paper. This got our interest so we criss-crossed the hump several times and determined it was a wrecked boat about the size of a shrimp boat. This was before the days of GPS’, and Dana didn’t have a Loran, so we had no way of marking the spot other than triangulating on the old concrete ship, a channel marker and an oil rig.

We anchored over the wreck, baited up and let our rigs down to the bottom. Dana was right into a nice fish, but I was hung up on something. I had caught the wreck and in loosening up my hook brought up a small piece of wood. I netted Dana’s fish, a nice Red, got my rig baited up and preceded to land a two pound trout.

We were on to something and for the next two years “The Wreck” was a fish producer for us and only a twenty minute boat ride from Dana’s Camp! One memorable trip to “The Wreck” was during the summer of 1982. Alvin Pyland, my Uncle Gus, Dave Miller, a close friend, and I had spent the morning fishing the Gulf side of the South Jetty. As usual we had an enjoyable trip and a large Igloo Cooler over half full of fish.

The tide had been going out pushing baitfish around the end of the jetty and back toward the beachfront and we had caught Trout, Reds, Spanish Mackerel and even a Cobia. When the tide changed and started going in I suggested we try “The Wreck”. Neither of my companions had ever fished it and didn’t even know it was there. They had good success during the fall fishing for Reds almost directly across from “The Wreck” in ten feet of water on a shelf on the east side of the Ship Channel.

We pulled up my twenty foot Cobia, deep vee, in the vicinity of “The Wreck”, and with the depth finder began our triangulating. Soon we were anchored over it and had our baits in the water, when “Wham”, Uncle Gus has a big hit from, obviously, a Red, a real nice one judging from the bend in his rod, and another, “Wham” Dave has a big strike on his spinning outfit, and “Whamo” I have a big hit from something. Wham, Wham, Wham, three almost simultaneous heavy strikes!

The fight is on! My fish, a three pound Trout, comes to the boat first, and Uncle Gus nets it while still fighting his. Dave is locked in a line loosing struggle with something big and asks me “Jon, start us up and get our anchor up. I can’t stop this thing.”

I have a dilemma, Dave’s fish shows no signs of tiring and is heading north with the tide and Uncle Gus’s fish is heading east toward the deep water of the ship channel. I split the difference and head at a forty-five degree angle between the fish.

Soon Uncle Gus’s fish, an over thirty inch Red is alongside the boat and we net it, get the hook out and release it. Reds now had a twenty to twenty-eight inch slot and this one was too big. Dave is still struggling with his fish, which he thinks is either a record Red or maybe a large, Black Drum. I follow the fish and get the boat up beside it and we see it is a large, over twenty pound, Jackfish. “Record Red, huh, haw, haw, haw,” we both laugh as I get the net ready. One more short run and the Jack is ours.

We get the hook out and release it. Jackfish are great fighters, more like sluggers, but have no food value. We find ourselves over three hundred yards from “The Wreck” and both of my guests say “Why don’t we go back and anchor up?” I comply.

Fishing “The Wreck” was a nice interlude, but a short one. Hurricane Alicia hit Galveston Island during the summer of 1983, the strong currents washing our favorite spot away forever!

We Ate The State Record

In January of 1971, I was transferred to Phoenix, Arizona to be Sales Manager in charge of all new business. The first months were spent missing the Gulf Coast, then a one month bout of Aisian Flu and then, whatever else time I had getting into my new job. Shortly after the Asian Flu, we met the Schlindler family, and Jack Schlindler became my hunting and fishing companion for the next fifteen years.

Jack was from East Texas, and grew up hunting and fishing in Texas’ great piney woods. He was also a Mechanical Engineering graduate from Texas A & M College (now University). In 1971 Jack was VP of a large grocery chain, one of several local chains trying to gain control of the Phoenix market. Jack hung the dubious nickname of Beechnut”, or “Beech”, on me because I chewed Beechnut Chewing Tobacco.

We had many adventures, some spine tingling, like when I slipped and fell/slid fifty feet down a two hundred foot canyon wall at the Black River. As I was sliding down, something inside told me to flatten out and spread my arms and legs to slow my fall. This saved my life! By lying flat and “scroochin” up inches at a time I finally got to where Jack could reach me and pull me up and out of my fix.

Some were funny, like the time when we were chasing a large covey of Gambel quail in the Tonto Basin and I climbed over a six-foot, barbed wire fence and “caught “myself and was hanging upside down for what seemed like an eternity until Jack came up and said, “Beech”, you hung up.” After we had a good laugh, he got me down OK.

Or the thrill of training my own Brittany Spaniel pup, Beechnut’s Rooster Cogburn, or “Rooster”, as he was affectionately known, and watching him get his first point on a covey of wild Gambel Quail and shooting two out of the covey for him. And overall, some of the best White wing and Morning Dove shooting, and some of the best Gambel and Mearns Quail hunting on this planet!

Since we were both fishermen, our first adventures were several trips to Lake Pleasant, at the time a twenty-minute trip up Interstate Seventeen, north of Phoenix. Now the town has almost surrounded the lake.

At that particular time, the spring of 1972, Jack had an original Skeeter Bass Boat with a fifty-five horsepower Johnson, three cylinder outboard engine. It was an early model of the Skeeter with a flat bottom and, of all things, stick steering, not a steering wheel. If I remember right you pushed the stick forward to go to the port (left) side and pulled back to go to the starboard (right) side. But, it served our purposes.

We would put in at the State launch ramp at the lake and head straight for the dam and try to fish inside the restraining cables. The dam had a watchman, or “Troll” as we called him. We never met him but ALMOST became friends with him, because he ran us off from inside the restraining cables so many times. He must not have been a fisherman. Until the “Troll” would run us off, we would cast up on the dam and bounce our special multiple jigs back down its side, awaiting a strike from a White Bass

White Bass in Arizona you say? Yes, years before, Texas had traded millions of White Bass fingerlings to Arizona for a large number of Rio Grande turkeys. Texas repopulated the state with the turkeys and Arizona created a great fishery for White Bass at Lake Pleasant.

This particular trip was on a beautiful desert morning, clear, no wind, and for a while we were the only ones fishing around the dam. I asked, “Do you see the ‘Troll’,” “No Troll’ in sight,” Jack replied, so under the restraining cable we went. After several casts I had a strike with some “weight” behind it. Must be a catfish I thought. It made a nice run, more like a Red Fish, then swirled the top of the water and took off again. Soon we lipped it and swung into the boat, the biggest White Bass ever, maybe. We estimated it was seven pounds or more. What a fish. Onto the stringer it went, and back to casting.

Catching one more fish, much smaller, out comes the “Troll”. “You boys get behind the restraining line, OK.” His first warning was always nice. We waved to him and kept fishing. “Behind the restraining line!” More firm. We waved and kept fishing. He was beginning to annoy us. “Move that “blankety, blank” boat or I’m going to give you a “blankety blank” ticket”. It was time to leave, so we started up and headed out into the lake and noticed a fisherman in a boat right up to the restraining line laughing at our encounter with the “Troll”. He says, “I saw you caught a nice one, let me see it.” We showed him and said we thought it would weigh seven pounds or more. “Real nice,” he said as we motored off. We took both White Bass home and ate them.

Several months later I get a call from Jack and he says, “You remember that big White Bass you caught out at ‘Unpleasant’,” our new name for the lake. I said’ “Sure do, it ate real good!” He went on to tell me that the fisherman we showed the fish to was a local outdoor writer for the Arizona Republic, and of all things, he wrote and was published in “Sports Afield” and article about the White Bass fishing in Lake Pleasant, and most embarrassing, about two Texas boys who caught a monster White Bass, easily a new state record, didn’t register it with the state, but like all good “meat” fishermen, took it home ate it.

If records interest you, most times the state will keep the fish, and you can’t eat it